Soil and Sacrament: Fred Bahnson in Conversation


Theologian Fred Bahnson, author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, speaks about finding God in food, gardening and community agriculture.

What does it mean to be truly alive? To answer that question Fred Bahnson set out to visit different faith communities around the country engaged in the act of growing food. After an agrarian conversion in Chiapas, Mexico and founding a community garden in rural North Carolina, Bahson grew mushrooms with Trappist monks, caught a buzz with Pentecostal coffee roasters, and celebrated Sukkot with Jewish organic farmers. In this lively evening, Fred Bahnson will recount stories from his pilgrimage to the holy country of food and faith, then dialogue with Shamu Sadeh, the Director of Adamah, a Jewish educational farm; and The Reverend Canon Julia Whitworth, Canon for Liturgy and the Arts at the Cathedral.

Fred Bahnson is the author of Soil & Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith (Simon & Schuster) and co-author of Making Peace With the Land. His essays have appeared in Oxford American, Image, Orion, The Sun, Washington Post, and Best American Spiritual Writing. His writing has received a number of awards including a Pilgrimage Essay Award, a Kellogg Food & Community fellowship, and a North Carolina Artist fellowship in creative nonfiction from the NC Arts Council. He teaches at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, where he directs the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative. He lives with his wife and sons in western North Carolina.

Shamu co-founded Adamah and has been its program director since 2004. He has led the growth of Adamah into a productive, sustainable Jewish educational farm with a transformative fellowship program that has produced dozens of leaders in the Jewish farming, environmental education and food movements and inspired countless visitors to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Among Adamah’s 300 plus alumni are food justice advocates, rabbis, farmers, community organizers, teachers, chefs and green business leaders. Before coming to Adamah, Shamu was a professor of environmental studies, writer, Jewish educator and wilderness guide. He directed the Teva Learning Center in its early years and completed a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Drawn to the integration of soul and soil, he works for the creation of a fruitful ecological landscape while building confidence, mindfulness and community among participants. Shamu has the yichus—ancestral connections—for Adamah from his great-grandparents and father, Jewish farmers and gardeners who practiced the mystical arts of composting and soil conservation. In 2010, the New York Jewish weekly “Forward” named Shamu one of the “Forward 50” who made significant contributions to Jewish life in America.

This event, which is open to the public, is presented as part of a programming series for the current exhibition, The Value of Food: Sustaining a Green Planet, on view until April 3, 2016